~Reviewed by Daniel Skidmore
“God helps those who help themselves.” Although not a biblical saying and, in fact, can be seen as opposing a Judea-Christian theology, this statement has merit. With this idea of working with God to bring about a better future for the world and for ourselves, I want to re-examine the movie Little Children.
Little Children is a mind-numbingly boring and self-absorbed tale of adults who refuse to help themselves. The film stars Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson as a couple who are involved in an adulterous affair; it co-stars Jackie Earle Haley as a pedophilic flasher and Noah Emmerich as the ex-cop obsessed with punishing him.
This film uses a tired and worn out critique of suburban America, portraying suburbia as filled with useless fears and petty gossip. However, this film fails to engender sympathy for any of these characters or the stifling environment in which they are supposedly wallowing. The characters do nothing to help their troubled marriages or to change the situations we are supposed to believe are so unbearable.
The crux of this movie lies in a quote from the very beginning where Sarah (Kate Winslet) eavesdrops on a conversation between three suburbanite mothers. One mother mentions how she and her husband set aside time for sex, and Sarah says to herself, “Yeah, I bet she does whether she wants to or not.” What Sarah and this film fail to realize is that it is precisely the obligations that we often do not want to fulfill that sometimes make the world go ‘round. The Catholic tradition uses sayings like “complete self gift” and “total self sacrifice” to describe marriage. Although the language may sound too flowery and unrealistic, all good marriages, not to mention good lives, contain moments of self-sacrifice. Little Children, however, does not convey this point.
The fantastic series of events that end this film destroys any realism that may have slightly redeemed it. The film sends the message that you should live life like a leaf blown in the wind, floating from one desire to the next, and, in the end, God or the forces of nature will take over like a crescendo and guide you towards happiness.
This film represents the very self-obsessed desires that it seeks to mock. Little Children is a movie about rich, attractive, white people and the problems they create for themselves through fear of confrontation or the desire to take the easy way out of even a slightly uncomfortable situation. The plot is convoluted, mixing mostly realistic scenarios with an all-too fantastic ending. Weak characters inspire nothing but apathy. As St. Paul said of his experience and advised, “I put away childish things.” I would advise any potential renters to do the same and leave Little Children on the shelf.